On Thursday, April 2, four members of the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) introduced a petition to extend the hours of operation of the University’s Freeman Athletic Center. Currently, Freeman opens at 6:45 a.m. and closes at 8:45 p.m. Monday through Friday. With the passing of this petition, the athletic center would close at midnight Monday through Thursday and at 9 p.m. on Friday. During the weekend, Freeman is currently open from 8 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. on Sundays. The petition would adjust these to 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and 9 a.m. to midnight on Sundays.
Owen Christoph ’18, Carter Deane ’18, George Pollack ’17, and Colin O’Keeffe ’17 plan to present this petition to the administration. According to Pollack, the group has support from the University community at large.
“The four organizers…are the faces of this petition,” Pollack said. “Nonetheless, this has been a long process, where we consulted various members of the community for advice [and] opinions. This is merely the culmination of many peoples’ efforts and we are grateful for their assistance.”
The students responsible for the petition argue that extending the hours would help students make time for exercise amidst classes, meals, homework, and extracurricular obligations. The ultimate goal is to make the campus athletic center more accessible to the entire University community.
The group members pointed out the disparity between the University’s athletic center hours and those of similar institutions. Aside from the fact that most other universities have longer hours, some have more than one athletic facility open to students. They also emphasized that this petition is less urgent the other issues taken on by the student assembly recently, and should not be looked at from the same perspective.
“We do not see this as a cause,” Pollack said. “Improving [Counseling and Psychological Services] for students is a cause. Making the WSA more accessible is a cause. Improving the community for first-generation students is a cause. This is merely something where we see room for improvement. We merely hope that this will be one of the many ways the WSA helps improve the [University] community.”
Anna Pezanoski-Cohen ’17, a member of the WSA, spoke in support of the petition.
“I think the extension of Freeman Athletic Center hours is important for our community,” Pezanoski-Cohen said. “Besides the fact that other NESCAC schools have much longer gym hours than we do, having access to workout facilities during times when they were previously unavailable means that students can increase their physical and emotional well-being.”
Matthew Riccio ’16 acknowledged the impact that the change would have on student employees.
“I’m fine with this,” Riccio said. “I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t be fine with this. More work hours for student employees is a good thing, and if there’s actually a considerable demand for longer hours, the student body would only benefit.”
However, Maggie Feldman-Piltch ’14 expressed a different opinion.
“What I know about the specifics of the petition are limited completely to what is on the Facebook page, which to me comes off as a vast oversimplification of the situation,” Feldman-Piltch wrote in an email to The Argus. “I was a very frequent Freeman user as a student…and understand how hard it can be to find time to work out, but there are a ton of options on campus and Freeman is open a lot considering [the University’s] size. In general, I think it’s easy to point out things we may want without recognizing what it is we’re truly asking for.”
Pollack expressed his hope that significant change will come out of this petition.
“We will know our petition is effective when the hours of operation of the fitness center at Freeman change to be more open and accessible to all members of the community,” Pollack said. “While we have a stated goal, we understand that we must work with the administrators to find a resolution that is both beneficial and realistic for the student body and the athletic budget.”
Pollack stated that there was a strong turnout for the initial signing of the petition on Thursday, but that the group plans to continue accumulating signatures over the course of the week. Athletic Director Michael Whalen did not respond immediately to a request for comment.